One of the passing comments that caused me concern at this year’s Book Fair was “Look! This book was published in oh-ten!” I haven’t decided yet how I feel about that.
The decade in which the third digit in the year was a zero is over. It started with an oh-oh, and that kind of set the tone for the whole decade. I, for one, am keeping my Y2K kit on hand just in case. You never know.
Of course, it’s not really wrong. 2010 could be pronounced “two-oh-ten”. So people who have gotten used to saying oh-seven, oh-eight, and oh-nine just naturally went on to oh-ten. I’m just worried about whether we ought to encourage this.
What if it goes on? Oh-eleven? Oh-twenty-nine? Oh-fifty-eight? Oh, sure. You don’t see what difference it makes. But if we let this oh-year become the pattern for the whole century, look at the effect on the economy. Car dealerships that used to put up big signs to announce that the ‘97 Yugos were in stock will now have to pay for one extra digit to announce that the ‘015 Mustangs have arrived. Every bistro with a wine list will have to pay for extra printing to show off their ‘035 Fireside Pinot or ‘059 Zinfandel. Colleges and high schools with budgets already tight will have to spring for extra embroidery on those patches for letter sweaters for the Women’s Volleyball Team of ‘028.
And it could well become retroactive. Will our descendants speak of the Stock Market Crash of ‘929 or the Spirit of ‘776? Fogeys like me, sticking to the old double-digit version will have to add a second apostrophe to show two numbers omitted, as in Spirit of ”76. Some people say there’s a price to pay for all innovation; I say “Refuse to pay the apostro-fee!”
What can we do about it? What should we do about it? I haven’t got a single idea. But by gummibears, let’s get out there and do it! Show all the world we’re not the sort of people to whom a zero means nothing!